Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer's over

White Elephant bench; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Tomorrow is the last day of August. How did that happen so soon? Normally summer heat and humidity make it seem interminable. Not so this year. Each summer the gals at White Elephant repaint their bench. Last year it was stripes, now it's popsicles. What will it be next year? I could see polkadots.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Studio Series: Adaptability

Adaptability © Karen Thiessen, 2009
In this shadow box for the Textile Museum of Canada, I combined textiles, paint, and collage.
Adaptability © Karen Thiessen, 2009
The flower is a copy of a hand-painted flower on my great grandmother's postcard album. The thread "donut" is a round paperclip wrapped and stitched to the extreme.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Quotes: Mavis Gallant

"There is no such a thing as a writer who has escaped being influenced. I have never heard a professional writer of any quality or standing talk about 'pure' style, or say he would not read this or that for fear of corrupting or affecting his own; but I have heard it from would-be writers and amateurs. Corruption–if that is the word–sets in from the moment a child learns to speak and to hear language used and misused. A young person who does not read, and read widely, will never write anything-at least, nothing of interest. [...] The beginning writer has to choose, tear to pieces, spit out, chew up and assimilate as naturally as a young animal–as naturally and as ruthlessly. Style cannot be copied, except by the untalented. It is, finally, the distillation of a lifetime of reading and listening, of selection and rejection. But if it is not a true voice, it is nothing." – Mavis Gallant, from "What Is Style?" 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer highlights 2

Tall Ships going through Welland Canal; Photo Credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Four years of living in Halifax meant that Tall Ships were a common sight, so when they visited our city recently I attended the festival but didn't spend much time looking at the ships. Been there, done that. The next day we decided to head to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a picnic. To get there we had to cross the Welland Canal. Not my favourite bridge: it scared me as a kid. I didn't like that you could see the water through it and I was always afraid that it would go up while I was still on it. It's still not my favourite bridge but when we saw these beauties making their way through the lock, we had to stop and watch.
Tall Ships going through Welland Canal; Photo Credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
We stood on the bridge for over an hour waiting for the ships to enter the lock, for the water level to rise, and then for all three of them to sail through.
Tall Ships going through Welland Canal; Photo Credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I had never seen tall ships go through a lock before and I had never seen three sailing at once. The experience was amazing and the bridge is now a little less scary.
1955 Ford Fairlane Fordomatic; Photo Credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Once in NOTL we walked through a display of old cars. This pink beauty caught my eye. It's a 1955 Ford Fairlane Sunliner convertible.
1955 Ford Fairlane Fordomatic; Photo Credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Oh, it has a V8 engine...
1955 Ford Fairlane Fordomatic; Photo Credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
and lots of chrome.
Fans Court sign, NOTL; Photo Credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
This restaurant is now closed. I'm sure that I've had a few meals there over the years. The sign is part of NOTL's heritage. I hope it is preserved when another establishment takes over the restaurant space.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chortitza descendent oak, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Chortitza descendent oak, NOTL; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I'm currently smitten with Chortitza descendent oaks and have an unwritten goal to visit as many as possible. So far, I've hung out with two: one in Niagara-on-the-Lake and another in Leamington. Through the grapevine I've heard of others, planted here and there. So far, I've visited this oak twice and gathered a few leaves for rubbings and to press. It's a friendly tree and I enjoy its company. It's a link to my Mennonite ancestors who gathered under the parent tree in South Russia (current day Ukraine).
Chortitza oak plaque, NOTL; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I even took a rubbing of the plaque. It's a nice touch.
Chortitza descendent oak, NOTL; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Young leaves one month...
Chortitza descendent oak, NOTL; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
and lacy leaves a month later.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Quotes: Renzetti & Thurston

"Above all, the indolent realize that when the brain is resting it's actually at its most receptive. If it's quiet, wild and wonderful things nest within it. Recently, Baratunde Thurston, author of How to Be Black and the self-described "most connected man on earth," decided to unplug for a 25-day vacation, and wrote about the experience in Fast Company magazine. The unplugging itself was a huge enterprise, and left him briefly shaken, like a high-and-dry drunk. He was trapped, and suddenly he was free. "The greatest gift I gave myself was a renewed appreciation for disengagement, emptiness and silence," he wrote. "Unoccupied moments are beautiful." (Elizabeth Renzetti, "In praise of indolence: The work-weary should take 'unplugged' vacations" Globe & Mail, Sat. July 6, 2013, p. A2) Link to Baratunde Thurston's Fast Company article.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer highlights 1

Mulberry stained fingers; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Summer is normally too hot and humid for me, but this year the weather has been perfect and as a result I've been enjoying it differently. Evening mulberry walks are a summer tradition and we've introduced it to our nieces, nephew, and our adventurous friends.
Dried mud puddle; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I saw this dried mud puddle while out for a walk and had to go back for my camera. When I lived on the farm, I had fond memories of walking on these barefoot, breaking up the mud shards. Squishing warm, wet mud through my toes was also fun. I seldom see mud puddles in the city.
 Variegated Canna Lily leaf; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Twice this summer, we've brought a picnic lunch to Niagara-on-the-Lake. NOTL is a tourist town with the Shaw Theatre, picturesque shops and a showy streetscape with benches and dramatic greenery. When I was young, my grandma would take me there each summer. I preferred its calmness to the chaotic Niagara Falls.
 Adolescent robin; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
 This young robin claimed our patio as his own and made his mark, so to speak. 
 Red & White twist tie on hexagons paper; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen, 2013
This twist tie against the hexagons paper pad that I bought at Cinnober makes me very happy. It's a small, simple delight.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Copenhagen & Amsterdam Souvenirs

Copenhagen & Amsterdam souvenirs; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen 2013
With a commitment to not checking any luggage, we were creative with our selection of souvenirs. The hexagons pad is from Cinnober and the twine and tags are from Tutein & Koch. Not in this picture are five rolls of washi tape, also purchased from Tutein & Koch. All of the aforementioned goods, plus the Danish kroner are from Copenhagen. I purchased the insects tea towel by Studio Job in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam souvenirs; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen 2013
I'm a sucker for pressed pennies. These came from Amsterdam, along with the tray, which is by Mariska Meijers who kindly opened her shop for us when she saw us peeking through the window.
Copenhagen & Amsterdam souvenirs; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen 2013
Anne Black's ceramics knocked me off my feet. The sake cup and dish are quite small.
Copenhagen & Amsterdam souvenirs; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen 2013
At Droog in Amsterdam, I found this tea towel designed by Annelys de Vet. It was one of twelve tea towels, one for each month, released in 2012. From the Droog website: "For everything there is a season – a set of 12 tea towels by graphic designer Annelys de Vet. For everything there is a season is a series of traditional Dutch chequered tea towels, one for each month, like a calendar. The months of the year are marked with words illustrating cultural, historical or botanical characteristics of the twelve months in the Netherlands. Dutch narratives are woven between past and future..." My tea towel is from February and its focus is water management devices. If you visit Amsterdam, be sure to check out the Droog store, café, exhibition space, and hotel, all under one roof.
Copenhagen oilcloth; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen 2013
Finally, this is the oilcloth (plastic laminated cotton) in a traditional Danish design that I bought at Grønlykke.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Studio Series: Indigo dyeing


Indigo dyed fabric © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Many moons ago I attempted to prepare an indigo vat and it didn't work. Not one bit. I didn't know how to correct it, so I dumped the whole thing, and that was that. Last year I took a vat dyeing workshop with Roisin Fagan, which reignited a desire to start my own vat. 
Indigo dyed fabric © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I ordered an indigo kit from Maiwa and got the party started. I went with a chemical vat because I wanted something idiot-proof. It worked from the get go, and then, because I dyed a whack of fabric, it stopped working. The Maiwa instructions were good for getting the vat started, but not for trouble-shooting my vat. The internet filled some of my knowledge gaps and after a few tries, I got my vat working again. Naturally, I dyed another big whack of fabric and now it needs some TLC, possibly more indigo and thiox. My success with my indigo vat has been so rewarding and exciting that I've been dreaming about it. Next summer I'll prepare a natural indigo vat.
Maiwa synthetic indigo kit; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
This summer I have radically switched up my studio practice. I'm taking a break from the studio space and have been feeding my sketchbook at the dining room table for a change of scenery. A tower of art books sits on the dining room table, and day by day I've been going through them, refilling my inspiration well. I cleaned out the garage and set up an indigo vat. Now I'd like to do some natural dyeing with onion skins and avocado skins in rain water while the weather is still warm. Once in a while, I'll sacrifice a studio day to spend tending the garden. Before I wouldn't consider this, but my friend Lorraine Roy once talked about working with the seasons. Her comment sunk in, so this year I've decided to take full advantage of our few months of warm weather. Already I'm feeling restored.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Acts of Kindness

Small acts of kindness rank big in my books. Our 12 year old friend made this card for my husband's birthday and hand-delivered it to our mailbox. Although it was for my hubby, it made my week.
One Sunday in church, my six year old friend and her four year old sister sat next to me. I drew in my sketchbook and they drew on church bulletins. When they started to get a little restless, I traced their hands in my sketchbook. After church, the six year old raced off to a craft room and later presented me with this tracing of her hand. I love the op effect. When I got home, I imitated her technique in my "home" sketchbook. Influence is a circle.
My uncle has a Chortitza oak planted on his property. When he learned that I am looking for Chortitza oak leaves for a project, he mailed me this cluster in a large envelope. No note. My uncle is a kind and considerate man of few words. This thoughtful act made my week.
Years ago, I had a subscription to Uppercase but I found that the inks made me sick, so I put them on a shelf and didn't renew. I dug out my stack in May and found that they had off-gassed, so in my quest for a complete set, I bought a pile of back issues from Mixed Media. The only one that I couldn't find anywhere (not even in Europe) was issue #12 and the Uppercase website indicated that it was sold out. My husband travels to Calgary occasionally and his office is close to Uppercase. He popped in one day and lo and behold they had one on the shelf. It's a great issue, but the inks still need to off-gas a bit before I spend a lot of time with it. They must have switched inks because the newer issues smell fine, so I renewed my subscription.
While at Uppercase, my hubby also picked this up for me. I know, I know, he is amazing!
Finally, while we were in Copenhagen I was on the look out for envelopes with unfamiliar security patterns. I found a bundle of 50 in Stelling in the Strøget area. The bundle was too large for my suitcase, so I asked if I could buy just one. The manager said that it would be too much work to figure out the cost, so he gave me an envelope and refused payment of any kind. I did not expect such kindness and generosity, especially since my husband and I had been warned numerous times not to expect courtesy in Copenhagen. The best acts of kindness are the ones that you don't expect.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Copenhagen: Random goodness

I love the font and the food at 42º Raw. We ate lunch here almost every day and then had supper at Simple Raw every other day.
The trains have a quiet area. How civilized.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Copenhagen: Colour

Nihola bike & planter; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen 2013
The Nihola cargo bikes were a common sight around Copenhagen. The cargo areas held children, groceries, a woman and sometimes a combination of all three if a strong man was peddling.
Shop door dots; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen 2013
 This door brought a smile to my face on a rainy Sunday.
Matryoshka doll skirt; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen 2013
I saw this in a shop window in Copenhagen and the next week I saw a woman in Amsterdam wearing this skirt.
Posters; Photo credit: © Karen Thiessen 2013
There was enough to see in Copenhagen without visiting Christiania. The poster is nice, though.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Copenhagen: Harbourside area

We stayed at the Adina Apartment Hotel Copenhagen, a new building in a harbourside area of old warehouses converted into condos. I love the mix of restored, repurposed buildings and well-designed new architecture.
The Adina is a short walk from Østerport Station. The staff were friendly and helpful and the room was perfect for an eight day stay (we stayed there before and after Amsterdam, ten days in total). It's in a quiet neighbourhood close to the ferry terminal, and a 20 to 30 minute walk to central Copenhagen. We could see docked cruise ships from our window. If we visit Copenhagen again, we'd return to the Adina.
The Little Mermaid statue; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2013
The Adina was a short walk to The Little Mermaid statue by Edvard Eriksen. Hoards of tourists swarmed it the first day that we saw it. 
We saw this Winged Victory statue on our walk to The Little Mermaid. Sorry, no details as to its name or sculptor. This gal was more to my liking than the mermaid.